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Archive for October, 2011

What is Herman Cain’s Communications Director Smoking?

Posted by prof e on October 31, 2011

We’re quickly approaching an election year, and you know what that means…political ads 24/7. More and more we’re seeing ads launched and tested online where ROI can be extremely high if an ad goes viral. Even better is an online ad that attracts the attention of traditional media. The result is free exposure when broadcast and cable news outlets spend precious airtime talking about or even screening the online ad.

That may be the strategy behind an online ad for Herman Cain, who is running for the Republican nomination to challenge Barak Obama in the 2012 Presidential race. The ad, with more than 1.2 million views and counting, features Cain’s chief of staff Mark Block who, at the end of the spot, takes a drag on a cigarette. You can watch the ad on [Youtube]. This is an unconventional approach, to say the least. As Block says in the spot, “we’ve run a campaign like nobody’s ever seen.”And while Block says the ad is not intended to promote smoking or to send a subliminal message, that’s not stopping media critics and journalists for looking for the subtext beneath the subtext. Some are suggesting that it is defiant gesture towards the nanny-ism of Big Government that wants to tell people what they can or cannot do.

Another bazaar web ad is the long-form, He Carried Yellow Flowers. Conner Friedersdorf at the Atlantic calls it a “Dadaist Meta-Western.” I don’t know where to begin with this one, so I encourage you to watch it on [YouTube] and leave your comments below. What do you think is the message? And does it make you think of Herman Cain as a viable contender for the office of President of the United States of America?

 

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Posted in advertising, media effects, new media, politics, PR, video | 24 Comments »

Social Media and the OWS Movement

Posted by prof e on October 13, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been generating a lot of attention from the mainstream media in recent weeks. According to a report in the NYT, media coverage has been increasing as the movement gains strength and spreads to other cities. The proximity of the protestors to the nerve center of the US news industry, just blocks away in NYC, certainly helps. Organizers have also worked hard to create stories that the mainstream media are likely to cover, including orchestrated attempts to obstruct traffic and confront police.

The protestors have demonstrated some media savvy as indicated by a sign held by one protester-“Whoever controls the media, the messages, controls the culture.” They’ve got a website and they even have a print publication devoted to getting their story out. The Occupy Wall Street Journal is being supported  using funds raised by a Kickstarter campaign called Occupy Wall Street Media which has raised more than $75K to date. You can find their first issue on Google Docs here. On the Kickstarter site you can view a 3-minute video that includes sound bites from Michael Moore, a documentary filmmaker who has made a career championing the cause of the working class. Speaking of documentaries, the Academy Award winning doc from 2010, Inside Job, is an eye-opening look at the 2008 crash and subsequent attempts to deal with the financial mess that ensued. If you really want to understand the frustration being directed at Wall Street, big business, and the government this documentary would be a good place to start.

But just like the Arab spring and the Tea Party movements that came before, another factor that has helped the OWS movement gain attention and momentum is the use of social media. According to Jeff Jarvis, professor of journalism and author of the blog BuzzMachine, “#OccupyWallStreet is a hashtag revolt.” Jarvis goes on to explain that, “a hashtag has no owner, no hierarchy, no canon or credo. It is a blank slate onto which anyone may impose his or her frustrations, complaints, demands, wishes, or principles.” Using Facebook and twitter is neither new nor innovative in late 2011, but it is and will be an essential part of any current and future populist movement. The raw power of unfiltered, instantaneous mobile communication cannot be denied. The fact that mainstream media are taking their cues from social media certainly helps. While social media is a powerful tool for coordinating and inspiring participants in a populist movement, the mainstream media brings the movement to the attention of a much larger segment of the population.

In an interesting twist with conspiratorial overtones, some have accused twitter of censoring the OccupyWallStreet hashtag and downplaying the size of the twitter stream that is being generated. This alleged censorship may be the result of a cosy relationship that twitter has with investment banks on Wall Street, according to one report.

It is also worth noting that the OWS movement was instigated by the Adbusters organization out of Vancouver, Canada. Adbusters may be best known for their anti-consumerism and anti-capitalistic positions on advertising and consumption. The Adbusters media foundation is, according to their website, “a global network of artists,  activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century.” The Adbusters organization is also known as sponsor of annual social marketing campaigns like Buy Nothing Day and Digital Detox Week.

Whether the OWS movement has legs and can reach critical mass may become evident on November 5th when, according to the Christian Science Monitor, “consumers are being urged to transfer their bank accounts from large, national financial institutions to community banks and credit unions.” If this movement grows, and hundreds of thousands close out their bank accounts, we’ll know that this is not just a fringe movement of leftists and anarchists.

Posted in 1st amendment, advertising, journalism, new media, politics, social media | 19 Comments »

Steve Jobs, Typography and the Mac

Posted by prof e on October 9, 2011

Although the passing of Steve Jobs this past week was not unexpected, it still was an emotional event for Apple fans and anyone who followed technology and media. The death of Steve Jobs attracted extensive media attention with much of the coverage focusing on his contributions over the years to the development of a computer and media empire that consistently delivered more than it promised.

To commemorate his passing I had my Media & Society class watch the 2005 commencement address that Steve Jobs delivered to the 2005 graduating class of Stanford University. The speech is only 14 minutes in length and you can see it below. There’s much to reflect on when listening to Jobs talk about his upbringing, his abbreviated college years, the twists and turns of his professional career, and his bout with cancer.

The one thing that stood out to me was the role that a class in typography, from Reed College, had on Jobs’ design of the Macintosh computer and, in many ways, the direction of Apple computer. Font selection, leading, kerning, tracking and ligatures are the concerns of a fairly obscure group of individuals, namely printers and typography geeks, yet Jobs was captivated by the ancient art of arranging letters on a page. Prior to the Apple Mac, computer type was crude and utilitarian. Function certainly won out our over form for screen fonts and printer output. But Jobs equipped the Mac with Postscript font technology and that, married with the personal laser printer, made high quality screen and print typography accessible to the masses. We take for granted font selection and high quality print output…but for that we should thank Steve Jobs and his vision for the Macintosh computer that started when he dropped in on a typography class at Reed College.

Posted in interactive media, media industry, new media | 24 Comments »